A coworker of mine keeps trying to get me in trouble
May 14, 2015 3:29 PM   Subscribe

I think a co-worker of mine actively has it out for me. He tried to get me fired by reporting my moonlighting work. What should I do, if anything? Details inside.

So, in my last question, I talked about a guy who reported me to HR by claiming I was being passive-aggressive and rude to him, when I really wasn't. I was told that basically he needs to chill out and I didn't do anything wrong. I think he had his talk with HR, where they told him how to properly interact with his fellow employees and explained to him that he can't just fly off the handle because he didn't like how someone worded a request.

I have reason to believe that when he met with HR, he informed them of my personal web portfolio/resume and online presence as a writer. It was easily googleable and some people within my organization already knew that I moonlight as a writer. I never saw it as a problem, and though I didn't talk about it openly, it wasn't really a secret. It's just a hobby and creative outlet. Calling it a second job would be generous because of how little I am paid to do it -- it would be a dream job to do it full-time, but that is extremely unlikely so I just do it for fun. Simply put, I do it because I love it, and I make sure it doesn't affect my main job. My boss brought it up to me and said someone reported it. He made it clear he feels I have been very productive and this freelance work hasn't negatively impacted my job at all. He said the problem was that I hadn't disclosed it and I need to make sure I am keeping him in the loop, but the sense I got is that it's not putting my job in jeopardy or risk me being fired. (It's worth noting that there is no conflict of interest at all with this freelance work and my full-time job, and there is nothing inappropriate or uncouth about that I am doing for my organization's public image.)

So that's great I won't be fired, but what should I do about the fact that this guy is apparently actively trying to get me fired? I don't know for sure that this is the guy who reported me, but I have every reason to believe it -- I'm not sure otherwise why anyone would actually care what I do on my personal time. My goal is already to keep my interactions with him to a minimum. Since I telework, this should be easy. My most trusted work allies have moved on from the company so I'm trying to just keep my personal life to myself and stick to strictly work. Is there anything else I should do about this guy, other than continue to be competent at my job? Does it matter who reported this to HR and should I try to ask them where the info came from? On my end, is there anything else I need to do to protect myself further, other than obviously making sure I keep my boss informed of what I am up to and continuing to do my job well?

It's obviously important to me that I keep my current job, as it is my career and livelihood. It's also important I continue my moonlighting, because it makes me happy. Thank you!
posted by AspirinPill to Work & Money (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think the only person this guy is going to get in trouble is himself, so don't worry about it. Keep your head down and do your work well and let this guy do what he wants. Your manager is okay with what you are doing and HR thinks he needs to get a grip. You sound fine.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 3:38 PM on May 14, 2015 [18 favorites]

Don't worry about him; he will be his own undoing.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 3:47 PM on May 14, 2015 [10 favorites]

Your boss: I need to make sure I am keeping him in the loop

Just make sure that you keep doing just that, and that your performance keeps being great. Nothing else really matters.
posted by Namlit at 3:49 PM on May 14, 2015 [9 favorites]

"Is there anything else I should do about this guy, other than continue to be competent at my job?"

You answered this yourself. Just continue being competent. You can't prove who complained, even if you suspect, and it will only make you look bad if you try to complain. Especially since you are technically in the wrong (even if it has no impact).

But this struck me. You wrote "the sense I got is that it's not putting my job in jeopardy or risk me being fired."

The sense? Did you ask directly if you needed to take action or if there would be any repercussion?
posted by frumiousb at 3:52 PM on May 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Your writing can easily be explained as a hobby. It's hardly the kind of very intense work that companies worry about when they try to restrict outside employment. When checking-in with your boss, frame it as a hobby and make sure your performance continues to be excellent.

This guy is quickly going to be considered a complainey tattler. His moves seem to be pretty transparent and he's coming off as not being a team player with every HR visit. He's not your boss. Cut a wide berth and make sure your actual boss is happy. Don't go to HR or ask questions about who reported you. If you do have questionable interactions with him, document, document, document.
posted by quince at 3:56 PM on May 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Does your employer have a manual that says you have to disclose outside work? If not, I would tend towards I have an outside hobby that generates small amounts of cash, have not hidden it, it does not affect employer with some attitude.

Jerk coworker - Don't be too passive. Be vocal if/when he's an ass to you. Be assertive dealing with him. What's his value to the company? If he has some esoteric hard-to-replace skill, be extremely cautious. Complainers can create a lot of bad feeling, and they get a lot of attention. Be very professional to him, be clear with your boss that you don't appreciate being hassled by or about this guy, who is an asshole.
posted by theora55 at 4:02 PM on May 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I realized now after the fact that the employee manual did say something about disclosing even volunteer work. I never thought about it though because it's so very clearly not a conflict of interest and for all intents and purposes, it is a hobby, not a job. So I just never thought my office would expect that to be disclosed. I am glad my boss wasn't angry, because I suppose he could've chosen to fire me, based on the manual.

I have to be honest, it really does make me angry and upset that one of my coworkers apparently tried to get me fired from my job for something that had nothing to do with my job. The more I think about it, the more I find it upsetting. What this person did means this person wanted me to go broke, have no money, and not be able to pay my rent anymore, essentially. And for what? Because outside of work I have the audacity to pursue something that is a passion and a dream of mine? I would never do something like that to someone -- not even to someone I actively dislike. I've had situations at work where I could've been a tattletale and flagged things about my least favorite coworkers up the chain, but I've always chosen to mind my own business, focus on results and worry about whether or not we are getting our jobs done. Everything else, I try to stay out of it.

Sigh. Maybe I just needed to vent about this a little to the Wall of Green. It's a sucky situation. I guess the only answer here is to keep doing my job and make sure HR/my boss are good with my situation. I'd still love more thoughts from you guys though. Thanks again.
posted by AspirinPill at 4:23 PM on May 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Watch yourself around him. Do not share any information, about your life at work or home. Be careful of his friends, if he has any. Maintain excellent passwords/security at work. Document interactions with him, e.g. by way of professional contemporaneous confirming emails.

Also, bide your time. People like this tend to stumble. Don't hesitate to make your own report if and when he overreaches in a clear and provable way.
posted by bearwife at 4:27 PM on May 14, 2015 [12 favorites]

If I were in your shoes I would feel upset too. This guy has now complained to HR about you twice! The good part is, your boss and HR think the complaints are inconsequential, and (I feel confident in saying) now they think the guy who complained is a pain in the ass tattle tale.

But of course you feel upset! It's not a good situation. I guess if I were you I would try to cope by telling myself that this guy obviously has a very unhappy life, and that if this is the one thing that gives him satisfaction, well that's pretty pathetic and sad. I would try to feel pity for him rather than allow him to make me feel hurt and upset.

I hate thinking other people are pitying me, so I'll admit, it would give me some mean satisfaction while allowing me to be outwardly gracious and take the high road. That's not exactly nice, but it does let me behave well and maintain my mental health.

The funny thing is, the one time I had to use this as a coping mechanism with a co-worker...I actually did end up feeling truly sorry for the person. He ended up getting let go, in no small part because of his wackadoo behaviour towards me. I just had to trust that the higher-ups would understand what was going on, and they did. I ended up getting an apology from my boss that I even had to go through the whole complaint process!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:38 PM on May 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

Yeah, sorry: keep being totally professional and super competent, and as others say above document every interaction with this jerk.

Also make sure there isn't anything in your desk or behavior that could possibly be mistaken as breaking company rules --- if company rules say 'no drinking on the job', then not only don't have a glass of something with lunch, don't even bring an obviously gift-wrapped bottle onto the premises: don't give this dude ANY ammo. And vent here at MeFi or some other place with zero links to your job: do NOT risk getting a rep of your own as a whiner!
posted by easily confused at 4:40 PM on May 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Keep a diary. Because document, document, document.

Otherwise, just sit back and enjoy the show. Remember that living well truly is the best revenge.
posted by Dashy at 4:40 PM on May 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

And by living well I mean: imagine, in detail, how miserable he must be to say and do the things he's done. How unhappy would you have to be, to get to the point of digging up and bringing in someone's blog, on the unlikely change that it would get them fired? He is clearly somewhere between very, very unhappy, and actually mentally ill.

You seem much more balanced. And I would bet happier.
posted by Dashy at 4:46 PM on May 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Is this coworker able to actively monitor your online presence? It seems like that's the area you need to be the most cautious. Anything you say there will probably cause the most trouble going forward.
posted by JoeZydeco at 5:09 PM on May 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

The more I think about it, the more I find it upsetting. What this person did means this person wanted me to go broke, have no money, and not be able to pay my rent anymore, essentially. And for what? Because outside of work I have the audacity to pursue something that is a passion and a dream of mine?

Well, that's probably not the reason why. Probably the reason why is because they're having a temper tantrum because they didn't get their way, and because you're a young woman and how dare you be the reason they didn't get their way. It's shocking but true. Don't let them rent any space in your head. I have to tell myself this a lot.
posted by bleep at 5:14 PM on May 14, 2015 [15 favorites]

Read the company handbook again and check there isn't some other (stupid) requirement that you aren't doing. Then keep your boss happy, and act like a sensible human being to the rest of the company.
posted by kjs4 at 5:59 PM on May 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

While I do agree that all you can really do in this situation is be super competent and try not to worry, I also know how uncomfortable and upsetting it feels to know that there is a real snake in the grass lying in wait to try to do you harm. I do think that if you can focus on just how petty it makes this person look, and that as the other posters say, he will ultimately be his own undoing, it will help with the anxiety that this causes. Do not allow this to make you hyper-vigilant. Keep your nose clean, do the best work you can, and consider stepping up communication with your manager about your performance so that you can feel more comfortable that you're aware of what hot buttons you should be cautious of.

I'm sorry that this person is behaving this way -- document everything (including the incidents here), so that you have a trail. This person is harassing you, although I would not say that you have enough data to make a clear case on that point with just these incidents, unfortunately.
posted by pazazygeek at 6:18 PM on May 14, 2015

The advice everyone else is providing is sound unless this escalates to more confrontational behavior.
  • Keep doing good work at your job.
  • Watch your back.
  • Give 'em enough rope.

posted by Nerd of the North at 6:32 PM on May 14, 2015

Happy People Don't Do Bad Things.

Yep. This person has a pretty awful inner life to do this. If you can, spare this guy a kind thought in your mind. Sounds like he could use it.
posted by jbenben at 7:00 PM on May 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all. I still can't say for sure who tried to get me fired, but I have to think that if it wasn't who I think it is, it was probably someone who is unhappy/bored and is maybe perhaps possibly just a smidgen jealous that I am doing something I love while still being able to succeed in my career. I can try to take solace in that, but I must admit that not knowing is an unsettling feeling -- I feel like there is an enemy out to get me among the people who are supposed to be my teammates. I guess the same response remains?: Keep doing my job well and keep ignoring all the bullshit.
posted by AspirinPill at 7:14 PM on May 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

And watch your back. You can be a fine person and still collect an enemy. Why is his issue.
posted by bearwife at 8:17 PM on May 14, 2015

The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.

Let him bark away. Just do your job to the best of your ability and avoid him to the extent possible.
posted by AugustWest at 8:35 PM on May 14, 2015

Yeah, there's a Gladys Kravitz at nearly every place. I once got tattled on for wearing the wrong type of casual wear on casual Friday. I guess not wearing a dress in the 1980's offended someone, probably someone who thought women should never wear pants outside of their home. Despite the fact that I was packing boxes for shipping and hefting them and no one in my division was even there (so, someone down the hall and no customer facing positions whatsoever there, strictly private offices), I guess I forgot to wear my pumps and my girdle and someone thought I should be corrected and taken to task. I never did find out who it was. So much fun to be spied on at work, isn't it?

Shortly afterward, I got recruited for another position, taken to a fancy lunch, flown out of town, the whole nine yards. And I'm sure that person stayed at their desk, snooping on everyone, for the rest of their career.

Just for grins, you could also look up harassment laws and keep notes. Because if it happens again, it would seem like your employer is tolerating a hostile work environment. You may never use the notes, but a simple note pad and taking notes in front of this person may make them stop and pause. "I'm sorry, what did you say, Bob? I just want to be clear on that," .
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:57 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Good advice above on the fellow and his appointment with his own petard.

Absent a clear company policy that you agreed to (explicitly or implicitly), I would feel no obligation to tell my employer anything at all about what I do/write/make/sell outside my work, or for whom, or for how much. Or even to confirm that I do it. It's simply not their business.

That doesn't mean I wouldn't talk about it. I might, depending on the relationship. But a boss saying 'Keep me in the loop about your freelancing' is overstepping.
posted by LonnieK at 9:15 AM on May 15, 2015

I was called in to my manager's office a few years back. She told me that someone had gone to HR and complained that I wasn't working my full shift (coming in late, leaving early, etc.). When I said that I probably knew who it was and made a gesture toward that person's workspace, my boss nodded.

This co-worker was always really friendly to me, but they went behind my back and tried to get me in trouble for no reason. I decided to keep my enemies close and acted like I didn't know anything about the issue. I pretended to be nice to the co-worker for two more years before they were let go for having a bad attitude.

On the day they were let go, I did a little jig (in my head). Negative people reap negative consequences.
posted by tacodave at 3:19 PM on May 15, 2015

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